1606 In Namibia, the gods have really gone crazy

In 1990, in the cradle of South Africa’s independence, Namibia then had many enviable trump cards: 2.5 million inhabitants spread out over 825,000 km2, no debts, diamonds, uranium, copper, fish, meat, excellent road infrastructure, electricity, well established institutions to serve as a legal framework, superb landscapes, etc.  There were however a few clouds in the sky: unemployment between 20 and 40%, but, above all, ideology-based promises made by SWAPO, the party in power, to China whose aid at that time (1960-65) had been very modest, an ideological ‘debt’ that is now weighing heavily on the country. This aid bears no comparison to the aid and support received at that time from the UN, from Europe, from the churches and from anti-apartheid movements. So, for 20 years, the darling child of Africa was a model of democracy and of respect for human rights – for which the previous generation had fought in order to free itself from the guardianship of South Africa and its apartheid. Today, 26 years on, we must recognize a certain erosion of power due to the external vultures of corporate globalization that accelerates social inequalities and some multinationals that are dismembering Namibia in large and small bites.


Worrying signs indicate that the Chinese (government, business people, workers) all have a say in Namibia’s governance via ministers who have been planted there. They have introduced large-scale corruption resulting in the weakening of democracy because for them, human rights are "secondary", as stated by the former president Hu Jintao. Poverty has also exploded for many of the population. Unemployment mortgages the lives of young people who do not all have adequate professional training. Internal vultures, largely the "elite", a true caste of those who have, have woven links between the public and the private sectors and are seized by delusions of grandeur - notably with the help of Chinese businessmen. They sell their land to the highest bidder. Who takes care of the poor? The government takes care of a few, but it is mainly the NGOs, churches or private individuals. We must mention an aid to the elderly, however, - and there are not many - who receive an old-age insurance of about 80frs a month. The 3% inflation has made life very costly and one wonders how the majority of people live. For the first time in 26 years, Namibians are marching on parliament on June 16 in response to a call from the movement "Affirmative Repositioning" to denounce the incomprehensible deviance of their government and a deadly neoliberalism.


And the causes quoted for the unrest? There is the magic word "Harambee", a plan countering poverty to appease the resentful. "Unfortunately, these are only words," writes Gwen Lister in The Namibian of May 27; she is an admirable Namibian journalist who had fought the South African presence for years and put her life in danger, "It is in total contradiction to the facts”, she adds. Then, the government is considering the construction of a new parliament building because the old one, built by the South Africans, even renovated, is not enough for the parliamentarians who need more luxury and prestige: 300 offices, 400 rooms for them, gym, medical centre, auditorium.


Cost 2.4 billion Namibian dollars or rands to which can be added an astronomical sum for the renovation of the office of the president. "In three years”, says Gwen Lister, “the estimate of the amount has tripled!" It's the little vultures pecking at left and right to get rich quick. Who’s helping to renovate this office? A Chinese company, China Jiangsu International Group, via a Namibian, Nghipondoka, who was given the contract. To these follies add those of President Hage Geingob himself and his Chinese partner, Jack Hang, for a private transaction brokered by Africa Sunrise Investment Pty Ltd. where the legal arrangements are well established - to build a neighborhood of 400 homes, 24 villas, two large buildings and a hotel. This on agricultural land, which is in contradiction to the law since the land cannot be sold to foreigners ... Namibians, who were not accustomed to such extravagance and "small arrangements" as in other countries, are pained and saddened because there are other priorities. They are gradually realizing that it is all being prepared for the Chinese who continue to arrive. The press, still free as under apartheid (but for how long?), is sending out the message.


One fact particularly shocked them: it appears that the South African entrepreneurs will have to apply for a visa to come to Namibia although the links between them have been strong since 1920! The government has been rectifying this in a convoluted way. But one can easily imagine that entrepreneurs and Chinese businessmen are here to do this work and to bring all the materials from distant China. Everything is prepared for the arrival of many Chinese citizens. Will the Namibian gods still save the authenticity of their country?


Christine von Garnier

AEFJN Swiss  

Go back